Helping people become better gardeners since 1999!

Garden Tips September 2014

Garden Tips September 2014

When Robin Williams committed suicide last month millions of us were heart broken.  It was awful, I was shocked, sad, angry, really sad, borderline depressed and then just confused.  We will never know what was going on in his mind.  There is a lot of speculation.  I don’t know if that helps us cope.  The important question each of us can ask is, what now?  How do we go on? And why am I reading about this in a garden tips column?  This months tips will be about gardening as a help in times of grief.  What a garden can do for us who are still here when we loose one we love.

The garden is a place of life and death.  There is no getting around it.  If the weeds aren’t pulled and put on the compost we won’t have flowers or compost. Everybody looses except the weeds.  Gophers need to be controlled as do aphids, yellow jackets, deer, pest birds and neighbors with dogs. Some are killed (not neighbors or their dogs) and some are deterred or repelled.

Where grieving is helped and eased is in the serenity of the landscape when the work is done and we can rest.  For some of us, gardening is relaxing and calming.  In some gardens plantings bring memories that help us cope. We can even plant a special tree or shrub to remember the loved one by.  Here are the tips.

  1. Have a place to sit comfortably. To quiet and stop in our daily life, even for a few minutes helps enormously.  A good chair or bench in the garden creates a destination for a visitor to stay a while and absorb the peace of being out of doors and  slowing down, for a while.
  2. Flowers have a special ability to give hope and peace.  It is not difficult to have something blooming all year round.  Visit a nursery regularly and when new flowering plants come in write down their name and look them up.  Decide if there is a place in your garden with the right light for them. Then buy one or two and see how they do.  Before long, your garden will be full of flowering plants all year round.
  3. Birds give a sense of peace in the garden.  If you provide water and seed, you will have birds.  They will find your feeder and dish in a day or so and you will have new life in your garden.  They also help control insects.
  4. Design a stroll path in your garden.  The Japanese design gardens for Moon viewing, conversation and meditation.  We can design gardens for rest and relaxation.  Our culture is driven and affluent because of high I.Q. creative people, these people need winding down once in a while.  We need more stroll paths.
  5. Have a Mission based garden.  Choose a Mission and build a garden around it.  Some ideas might be Grief Recovery, Mental Health, Idea Propagation, Reconciliation, Herbal Medicine, Innovation for Design, World Peace, Suicide Prevention.
  6. Plant a tree to remember someone special.  You don’t have to wait until they are dead.  Plant a long lived tree like an Oak when a baby is born. Or plant a Redwood to remember a special mentor or teacher.
  7. Grow special foods for a birthday celebration of a past loved one.  My Grandmother on my Fathers side loved huge salads with at least fifteen ingredients.  They were so good (and memorable) that I still make them now thirty years after her passing.  They include four kinds of lettuce, scallions, basil, mint, celery, cucumber, tomato, toasted sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, avocado, citrus (usually mandarin orange), apple and flowers like nasturtium, Johnny jump ups, tulip, roses and garlic.
  8. Put a monument up to remember a loved one.  It doesn’t have to have an inscription of the person or even look like a monument.  It can be a big rock in a special place.  You will know the significance of it being there.
  9. In San Mateo’s Central Park there is a bronze dog that was cast to remember a loved pet at the Kohl Mansion.  I have had several memorable pets.  Often the loss of a pet is greater even than the loss of a person. Having a sculpture made of a loved pet is quite special.

10. Remember when grieving to hold the legacy of the loved one.  Not how they died or suffered.  What they did that we can learn and emulate is what is really important.  I will miss Robin Williams tremendously but will watch his movies and television shows for the wonderful person and actor that he was. And I will put a bench in my garden to honor him.

Good Gardening

Jack McKinnon worked in the Sunset Magazine gardens for 12 years and is now a Garden Coach.  He can be reached at 650-455-0687650-455-0687, or by email at visit his website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>